Phillies fans arrive for home opener

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Fans arrived early Monday at Citizens Bank Park for an annual rite of spring: the Phillies' home opener.

The grills were fired up, the chili was simmering, and the tailgating began at 10 a.m.

"This is my favorite day of the year," said Jeff Ziegler of Downingtown. "Anything can happen. Expectations are not high for the team, but anything can happen."

As the set-up got underway on Citizens Bank Way, Scott Dalfonso of South Philadelphia was inside the Majestic merchandise store buying a Phillies truck for his son.

"It's his first opening day," said Dalfonso. "He's having a ball."

A spirit of optimism was in the air - the same optimism Action News found Sunday both among Phillies players and fans.

Ryan Howard was all smiles Sunday night as he and the rest of the Phillies stepped off the bus in South Philadelphia.

At nearby Chickie's and Pete's, fans told us they haven't forgotten the Phils' embarrassing last place finish last year, but they're not holding it against them.

"Last season was last season. This is a new year, new optimism, new way," said John Johnson of Northeast Philadelphia. "Phillies are going to be OK."

"They showed some potential today so I was kinda happy about that," said Mark Kopelow of South Brunswick, New Jersey. "I understand it's a rebuilding era."

"It was disappointing, but hopefully this year it'll be better," said Anne Firodaliso of Sicklerville, New Jersey.

On Sunday, crews prepped the field at Citizens Bank Park. A ferris wheel was set up outside the gates as part of a giant block party.

And fans were eager to welcome all that comes with the return of America's favorite pastime.

"You can grab Chickie's and Pete's fries," said Charlie Knodel of North Philadelphia. "They capture that essence of South Philly."

Before Monday's game, Kane Kalas, son of the late Phillies announcer, Harry Kalas, will sing the National Anthem.

Officer Jesse Hartnett, who was shot multiple times while on duty in South Philadelphia earlier this year threw the ceremonial first pitch.

And the United State Navy Parachute Team delivered the games balls.

Fresh off back-to-back wins against the Mets, some say 2016 could be the year.

"Worst to first. We did it in '93," said Johnson. "We can do it again in 2016."
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